Backpacking is one of the most fulfilling adventures for me. Carrying all my gear on my back and hiking into the wilderness to spend one night or multiple nights to obtain solitude, and get in tune with nature is what life is all about in my mind. My heart longs for these times when I can fade into the forest and mountains getting lost in my thoughts and reconnecting with my wild self. Testing the limits of my willpower, body and gear, being able to come out at the end of the trip knowing I just accomplished something many people will never know. Living in such close proximity to the mountains of northern Utah gives me ample opportunity to take these adventures. My favorite places to explore are the Wasatch and Uinta Mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains. The Wasatch are close to population centers and do have a lot more traffic. The Uintas have gotten more popular in the last few years but if you are willing to hike some miles you can usually find solitude that only the mountain wilderness can offer.
Backpacking the Clyde Lake Loop Trail
The Uinta Mountains sit on the Utah Wyoming boarder with the majority of the mountains just south of the Utah State line. These mountains are the only range of the Rocky Mountains that run east to west and are over 100 miles from the eastern end near Flaming George Reservoir to the western end near Oakley and Kamas, Utah. The Mirror Lake Highway, Utah Highway 150, crosses over the western end of the Uintas from Kamas, Utah to Evanston, Wyoming and is a major starting point for many camping and backpacking outings. With the many lakes and campgrounds on the Mirror Lake Highway, it is where most people go to experience the Uinta Mountains. Utah Highways 44 and 191, cross over on the eastern side of the Uinta Mountains. The north slope of the Uintas is only accessible from Wyoming through the towns of Evanston, Mountainview and Green River. The south slope is only accessible from the Uinta Basin through the towns of Tabiona, Duchesne, Roosevelt and Vernal. All the photographs in this blog post were taken on a three-day backpacking trip I did on the Clyde Lake Loop Trail. It starts at the Crystal Lake Trailhead near Washington Lake Campground just off the Mirror Lake Highway.
The Clyde Lake Loop Trail is a high traffic area that has a small elevation gain of just over 500 feet. It is about two and half miles to the halfway point at Clyde Lake and passes many beautiful lakes like Cliff Lake, Petite Lake and Watson Lake with Mount Watson towering over most of the trail.
It is only a short mile from the parking lot at the Crystal Lake Trailhead to Cliff lake. Many backpackers go past Cliff Lake thinking it is too close to their car but I have found it has some great camp spots. When I have been there during the week I had the whole lake to myself once the sun started setting.
I think Cliff Lake is one of the most scenic lakes in the Uinta Mountains. With the cliff and Mount Watson in the background this lake offers amazing reflections and perspectives of the setting sun. I spent two separate nights on Cliff Lake in two different campsites and thoroughly enjoyed my time photographing and just relaxing in the wild.
CLIFF IN THE CLOUDS
Fishing in the Uinta Mountains is some of the best alpine fishing anywhere and Cliff Lake is no exception. I saw most fisherman walk right on by this lake yet I saw many fish biting at dusk and while I sat waiting for the light in the photograph below I saw a large trout easily over 12 inches long swim into the shallows within arms reach of where I sat on a rock.
PORTAL TO THE SKY
I decided to hike up to the Divide Lakes just west of Clyde Lake for my second night and explored a little bit. The trail to Clyde Lake is amazing with grand views of Wall Lake, Notch Mountain, Reids Peak and Bald Mountain.
It is just a short walk west from Clyde Lake to Booker Lake and the two Divide Lakes. I decided to spend the night at Booker Lake and even though there were two other groups camping on the other side of the lake from me it was peaceful and quiet.
One of the things I love about camping in a hammock is the ability to lay in bed and have an amazing view. My campsite at Booker Lake was perfect with a view of the beautiful lake.
On this backpacking adventure I took my travel guitar to get some practice. I love relaxing in the early afternoon just plunking and practicing surrounded by such beauty. More than once over the years I have had a curious animal come right up to me while I was playing the guitar.
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
Booker Lake is a great little lake at the base of Mount Watson. The light during the first of July when I was there was truly gorgeous in the evening as the sun was setting. I was amazed at the scenery as I explored the lake finding scenes and just enjoying the solitude.
One of my favorite things to photograph while backpacking in the Uintas is the night sky. The high mountain air and remoteness of the area can be perfect for astrophotography and finding perfect nightscapes to photograph the stars is always fun. Though being out late at night all alone in nature can be a little disconcerting. Make sure to scout in the daylight the exact spot you want to photograph. Camping near your photography location can also be very helpful.
On this backpacking trip, July 6-9, 2021, I returned to Cliff Lake after spending the night at Booker Lake and spent my last night there so I could get the above photograph Uinta Sky. It was such a fun time and even though there were a lot of day hikers during the week, the campers were very few. I left Friday morning to avoid the weekend crowd. Part of the reason I wanted to camp in this area and photograph was because of its popularity so I could capture images of places people know and love. I am hoping to get into the area in 2022 and backpack the loop around Wall Lake so I can get photographs of that area.
Even though the Clyde Lake Loop trail and the area around it is popular and can be crowded I love this area because of its easy hiking and spectacular scenery. Just make sure to take the proper gear because it can get cold in the Uinta Mountains even in the middle of summer. It is best to familiarize yourself with the area by looking at maps or Google Earth and have a GPS in case you get off-course.
Here is a video of my trip if you want to see the area in more detail. I hope you enjoy this post.
Here is a Gallery to see all the photographs I have taken in the Uinta Mountains.